Early access to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation (1 to 3 minutes after cardiac arrest) is vital. These actions may increase the chance of survival by 75% or more. Up to 40,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in Canada. That’s one cardiac arrest every 12 minutes. Without rapid and appropriate treatment, most of these cardiac arrests will result in death.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a small, portable device used to identify cardiac rhythms and deliver a shock to correct abnormal electrical activity in the heart. As a result of the sophisticated electronics in an AED the operator will only be advised to deliver a shock if the heart is in a rhythm which can be corrected by defibrillation. If a shockable rhythm is not detected, no shock can be given and the provider will be instructed to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until emergency medical services arrive.
CPR will not restart a heart. Instead, it manually pumps blood through the heart and enables oxygen to reach the brain. This is absolutely vital for someone experiencing cardiac arrest.
An AED will administer a shock for two types of abnormal heart rhythms: ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. These are fatal arrhythmias and while they have a high likelihood of being corrected by an AED, they also may recur, which is why it’s important to leave an AED on (while continuing to administer CPR) until emergencies services arrive.
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